Portugal’s Minister for Foreign Affairs says there is “no possibility” of Portugal being excluded from the ‘visa waiver’ scheme that currently allows Portuguese visitors to the US a 90-day visa-free holiday period.
Minister Augusto Santos Silva guarantees that Portuguese tourists will continue to be allowed to enter the US for stays of up to 90 days without having to get a visa.
“Do not dramatise this”, pleaded the minister when asked about the possibility of Portugal being kicked off the highly convenient waiver scheme due to the number of its nationals failing to leave the US within the 90-day period.
“I want to deny the existence of such a possibility … there is no possibility of Portugal leaving the programme,” Augusto Santos Silva told the press after the annual meeting of Portugal’s ambassadors.
“We have worked with the US authorities and we must do our part in informing more intensely the Portuguese of the need to fulfil this condition of the programme,” explained the minister.
The visa waiver programme rules state that one of the requirements is “the total number of citizens of the country who have been admitted and violated the terms of that admission … being less than 2%.
According to data from the US Department of Homeland Security, 164,662 Portuguese entered the US under the programme in 2016 and about 4,000 of them (close to 2.5%) failed to leave within 90 days.
Augusto Santos Silva claims that these irregularities were not related to “bad faith, illegal immigration or fraud,” and said the cases were of people just being careless, an excuse that has little chance of being taken seriously by Washington.
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